Mindblowing molecular biology animations

You simply have to watch this TED talk. Some new animations are revealed that show our latest understanding of how cellular and sub-cellular structures, such as our DNA, RNA machines, chromosomes etc, work.

The sheer beauty, complexity and magic of our cellular reality will blow you away.

TED talk on Animations of unseeable biology


The story of flavorful heirloom corn

The story of flavorful heirloom corn

I hope more heirloom/ genetically diverse crops come back into our fields and onto our plates. It is a real pity that commercial considerations have pushed out foodcrop species towards monoculture and low generic diversity.

We now have a chance of turning back this direction and re-kindling lost varieties that deliver more flavor and nutrition.

“So why did farmers stop growing this corn? For everything that New England Eight Row Flint corn has going for it in terms of flavor, its big downside is that it doesn’t produce many cobs. It’s a low-yield corn.

“That’s why farmers moved to higher-yield [varieties],” explains Algiere. “They can get more corn per acre at lower quality.” Farmers produce for bulk because they’re paid by the bushel, not by the color or the flavor.

So varieties such as New England Eight Row Flint corn may produce great taste, but they’re not really commercially viable unless you convince more people to pay for taste over volume.

That’s what chef Barber is doing at Blue Hill. He serves a polenta made from the Eight Row Flint corn grown at Stone Barns.

And when I tasted it, I was surprised. The polenta tasted as if he had added butter. It was creamy and flavorful. Diners who have been turned onto it say the flavor is stunningly complex. “It’s kinda crazy,” he says.

The taste is coming directly from the corn.

Barber says this corn is just one example of what can happen when crops are bred to be flavorful and colorful, not just big.

The chef says he hopes this story becomes more than just a foodie fascination with heirlooms because he thinks there’s more at stake here about the way our food is grown.

“What I’ve come to learn from this experience is that if you are pursuing great flavor,” he says, “you are pursuing great nutrition. It’s one and the same.”

Reviving an heirloom corn (NPR)

Cleaning up the oceans

Cleaning up the oceans

The oceans are suffering from a variety of human created problems. We tend to think of the oceans as these vast, clean, empty spaces, but the reality is very different. Our planet greatly depends on the health of the oceans. Oceans teem with an extraordinary variety of life, and the oceans are suffering greatly, they aren’t clean anymore. In fact they suffer from pollution of all sorts: chemical, plastic, household items, ecological (introduced species), even noise (military sonars send whales beaching themselves on mass or unable to communicate).

On top of these there’s acidification, algal blooms etc, all issues that can be improved with more care: acidification is a hard one as we need to reduce our carbon footprint overall so atmospheric CO2 can stop rising so rapidly. Algal blooms are a bit easier, we can demand companies to be more environmentally friendly and stop fertiliser runoffs into waterways. We can also put pressure on federal and local politicians to clean up the coastline and implement more environmentally friendly politics. We can also stop or reduce consuming items that directly contribute to poisoning the oceans: meat, plastic wrappings etc.

“A non profit group announced on May 14th that a global “ocean clean up” effort on Sept. 15, 2012 netted an astonishing 5,000 tons of trash.
Among the pieces of rubbish collected were more than 2 million cigarette butts and filters, 4,159 candles, 40 lottery tickets and 2,492 baseballs.”

Here are ten ways that can help clean up the oceans. We can all do our bit.